A View of Chiswick House from the South West by Pieter Andreas Rysbrack

The Duchess of Devonshire’s Public Breakfast at Chiswick House, 1802

Today, we’re taking you back in time to a public breakfast given by Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire at the end of June 1802, at her villa, Chiswick House. Public it might have been, but entry was only for those ‘of note’ in the fashionable world. You’ll be mingling with around 700 members of London’s high society so, in order to look the part you’ll need to dress in the latest fashions. Gentlemen should wear boots for practicality as the event is mainly outdoors. For ladies, we’d recommend a simple white muslin dress with an understated headdress (maybe one with just a few feathers as decoration). You’ll have to manage in a pair of dainty slippers, but we’re sure the suited and booted gentlemen will be on hand to offer assistance.

A View of Chiswick House from the South West by Pieter Andreas Rysbrack
A View of Chiswick House from the South West by Pieter Andreas Rysbrack; English Heritage, Chiswick House

The breakfast rounded off the ‘fashionable arrangements’ for that particular week, which had started with a grand dinner given by the Prince of Wales on Monday 21st June and continued with a variety of musical evenings, routs and balls on every evening. By the time the weekend dawned, on Saturday 26th June, the haute ton were faced with the choice of attending two public breakfasts, one given by Mr Angerstein at his mansion, the Woodlands at Blackheath, or the Duchess of Devonshire’s gathering. No contest, we’re going to the latter!

Her Grace’s villa has long been deservedly the theme of public panegyric; but if it were always inhabited by as many beautiful women as appeared there on Saturday last, it would be a perfect Elysium.

Breakfast it might have been, but this was polite society and they kept fashionably late hours. The guests did not start arriving until the early afternoon, and they were the crème de la crème of society, headed by no less a person than the duchess’s friend, George, Prince of Wales who arrived dressed in green.

Miniature of George IV when Prince of Wales by George Engleheart, 1801-02.
Miniature of George IV when Prince of Wales by George Engleheart, 1801-02. Royal Collection Trust

We’ll pick you a handful of others from the list of noted attendees. The Duke of Orléans was present (Philippe Égalité’s son) and the Countess Conyngham who would become the Prince of Wales’ mistress some years hence. From a banking family, the countess was a beauty but snootily regarded as somewhat vulgar, due to her ancestry. The Prince’s current mistress, Frances Villiers, Countess of Jersey is not mentioned as being in attendance… but a Mrs Fitzherbert is, and she is more than likely Maria Fitzherbert, the prince’s on-again, off-again one true love.

A View of Chiswick House Gardens with the Bagnio and Domed Building Alleys; Pieter Andreas Rysbrack
A View of Chiswick House Gardens with the Bagnio and Domed Building Alleys; Pieter Andreas Rysbrack; English Heritage, Chiswick House

Some of the people present were those we know well; they are present within the pages of the books we have written. The Earl and Countess (later Marquess and Marchioness) of Cholmondeley were there; the earl was, for several years, the lover of our ‘infamous courtesan’, Grace Dalrymple Elliott, and he brought up her daughter, Georgiana Seymour, even though the girl’s father was not the earl but the Prince of Wales. Georgiana would have been almost 20 years of age and although she is not specifically mentioned as attending, it’s totally possible that she was there. If so, then she would have seen the man who, six years later, she would marry: Lord Charles Bentinck, a younger son of the 3rd Duke of Portland.

Other guests are familiar from our former blog posts, ladies such as the Marchioness of Salisbury, the Honourable Mr and Mrs Bouverie and Mrs Crewe.

Large French print of Chiswick with a plan of the gardens
Large French print of Chiswick with a plan of the gardens; Royal Collection Trust.

It was a perfect summer’s day and the guests strolled on the lawns and in the grounds. The Serpentine River provided rowing for any gentlemen who wanted a bit of exercise (aren’t you glad you wore your boots now?), and swings and a see-saw had been set up to provide a bit of fun (the latter reportedly ‘afforded much diversion’ and on the former, the ‘ladies assisted one another in swinging’).

A View of the Back Part of the Cassina, & Part of the Serpentine River, terminated by the Cascade in the Garden of Chiswick House.
A View of the Back Part of the Cassina, & Part of the Serpentine River, terminated by the Cascade in the Garden of Chiswick House. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

Amongst this elevated and merry company strolled the Duchess of Devonshire, arm-in-arm with her eldest daughter, fondly known as Little G, Georgiana, Viscountess Morpeth. Just 20 years of age, Lady Morpeth had married a year earlier, to the 5th Earl of Carlisle’s eldest son. Little G had recently become a mother; her son, the future 7th Earl of Carlisle, had been born on the 18th April 1802, so a little over two months before this breakfast. In a sea of white dresses, the Duchess of Devonshire and her daughter managed to be the centre of attention. They both ‘looked remarkably well [and] wore a new sort of bonnet, with a large lace veil over it, serving as both cloak and bonnet. This was one of the handsomest promenade dresses we saw’.

The day was hot, so the veil which doubled as a cloak must have provided a little protection from the sun while not being too heavy. We wonder if it resembled the fashion plate below, which dates to the same period?

Journal des dames et des modes, 14 June 1802
Journal des dames et des modes, 14 June 1802

Around 4 o’clock, the company sat down to their breakfast. The tables, set with bouquets of fresh flowers and piled with refreshments, were scattered over the estate.

In the house covers were laid for 200, viz. in the two salons, the dining and green-rooms, and the dressing-room. In the Temple, &c. 100 were accommodated, and in the two Grand Marquees, and the other tents, about 200 more. Tables were likewise placed under the trees at the entrance of the lawn; the effect was cool and refreshing, the situation being impervious to the rays of the sun… the desert of fruit was very fine, cherries, strawberries, peaches, nectarines, pines, in abundance.

The Pond and the Temple at Chiswick House by Pieter Andreas Rysbrack
The Pond and the Temple at Chiswick House by Pieter Andreas Rysbrack; English Heritage, Chiswick House

By 7 o’clock the guests started to drift away and an hour later most had departed, leaving the clearing up operation by the duchess’ servants to begin.

It had been a great success, but we have to note that two very important names did not appear on the list of guests. Neither the Duke of Devonshire nor his mistress Lady Bess Foster who lived with the couple in a form of ménage à trois, appear to have been present.

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, and Lady Elisabeth Foster, miniature by Jean-Urbain Guérin, 1791.
Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, and Lady Elisabeth Foster, miniature by Jean-Urbain Guérin, 1791. The Wallace Collection

NB: The images used of Chiswick House are of an earlier date when the house was owned by the Duke of Devonshire’s ancestor, the Earl of Burlington, but give a good idea of how the house and grounds would have looked.

If you enjoy our blog, you might also enjoy our books.

 

Sources:

Morning Post, 21 June and 28 June 1802

Frederick and Augusta, Prince and Princess of Wales by Gaetano Manini, 1758. © Royal Collection Trust

The First Duke of Edinburgh

In 1726, a new title was created in the peerage, the Duke of Edinburgh, and the recipient was Prince Frederick Louis, George I’s grandson.

The new duke was second in the line of succession to the throne behind his father, George Augustus who was, in 1726, the Prince of Wales.

Prince Frederick Louis, c.1720-1725. © Royal Collection Trust
Prince Frederick Louis, c.1720-1725. © Royal Collection Trust

News of his new title had to be carried to Hanover, for that was where Frederick lived. In 1714, when Queen Anne had died and his grandfather had taken the British throne as George I, Frederick’s parents, George, Prince of Wales and Caroline of Ansbach, the new Princess of Wales, had been forced to travel to England and leave their eldest son behind to represent the dynasty in Hanover (despite the fact that he was only seven years old).

Delighted with the news from England, celebrations were prepared at the Hanoverians’ summer residence, Herrenhausen Palace.

Hanover, Sept. 20. One the 12th inst. there was a great Entertainment at Herrenhausen, on Prince Frederick’s being created Duke of Edinburgh. There was a numerous Court, and at Night a fine Firework at the End of the Garden.

(Caledonian Mercury, 27 September 1726)

Herrenhausen Palace, Hanover, c.1708
Herrenhausen Palace, Hanover, c.1708 (via Wikimedia)

At the same time as Frederick had been created Duke of Edinburgh, his younger brother, William (who had been born in England) was made Duke of Cumberland, a title which had first been held by his 2x great-uncle, Prince Rupert of the Rhine. Prince William was only five years old, while Frederick was nineteen; the former was the focus and the favourite of the British royal court while Frederick, overseas and out-of-sight, was overlooked and becoming ostracized.

Frederick did not use his new title for long; on 11 June 1727 George I died, and Frederick’s father took the throne as George II. Frederick was – finally – brought to Britain, but father and son rarely saw eye-to-eye. On 8 January 1729, Frederick was invested as the Prince of Wales and his eldest son, George, was given the Edinburgh dukedom.

Frederick and Augusta, Prince and Princess of Wales by Gaetano Manini, 1758. © Royal Collection Trust
Frederick and Augusta, Prince and Princess of Wales by Gaetano Manini, 1758. © Royal Collection Trust

Frederick never became king; he predeceased his father, George II and instead his son, George, the 2nd Duke of Edinburgh (and Prince of Wales after Frederick’s death) succeeded as George III, and so we have the unbroken reigns of the four Georges which give the period it’s moniker, the Georgian era.

Hanoverian Family Tree. (Image sourced via the National Archives, © Royal Family History)
Hanoverian Family Tree. (Image sourced via the National Archives, © Royal Family History)

The title of Duke of Edinburgh fell into abeyance in 1760 with George III’s accession to the throne, but was resurrected by Queen Victoria for her second son, Prince Alfred (although the monarch’s second son is traditionally created Duke of York). And, in 1947, in its third creation, the title was bestowed on Prince Philip.

A drawing room at St James's Palace from the Microcosm of London (1808-1810)

King George III’s 70th birthday

King George III celebrated his 70th birthday on 4 June 1808.

George III on on of Windsor Castle's terraces; Peter Edward Stroehling, c.1807
George III on on of Windsor Castle’s terraces; Peter Edward Stroehling; Royal Collection Trust

The king was losing his eyesight and, because of this, wasn’t present at his birthday court at St James’s Palace, but did receive several members of the nobility at Buckingham House (as Buckingham Palace was then known).

The morning was, as usual, ushered in with the ringing of bells, at noon the Park and Tower guns were fired, the ships in the Thames displayed their colours, and the flags and standards of the United Kingdom were hoisted on the different churches and public buildings. The streets in the neighbourhood of the Palace were crowded to an excess, and the windows in St James’s Street in particular, exhibited a display of beauty and splendour rarely to be witnessed in any country.

The royal family – minus the king – all began to arrive throughout the day, and assembled for ‘Her Majesty’s drawing-room’. The Prince of Wales, predictably, made sure everyone noticed his entrance.

At two o’clock the Prince of Wales and his Suite, in three carriages, and servants in state liveries, dress hats and feathers, proceeded from Carlton House to the Drawing Room, and entered by the private door in the Park. His Royal Highness was attended by the Duke of Clarence, Lords Keith and Dundas, Generals Lee and Hulse, and Colonels McMahon, Lee and Bloomfield.

The music playing had been specified by the king, but it was the queen who received the company, and all the nobility were present. Everyone had to wear full court dress and the queen continued to stipulate that ladies had to wear full hoops under their skirts, in an echo of the fashions of several decades earlier. Coupled with the trend for gowns with a slim silhouette in the early years of the nineteenth-century, the full skirts of the dresses which had to be worn at court looked ridiculously cumbersome. They certainly weren’t the most flattering of dresses to wear!

A drawing room at St James's Palace from the Microcosm of London (1808-1810)
A drawing room at St James’s Palace from the Microcosm of London (1808-1810)

A sketch of one of the dresses worn has survived at this particular Drawing Room, and it was worn by the Countess, later Marchioness of Cholomondeley, someone we’ve written about at length. The Earl of Cholmondeley had, a few years prior to his marriage, been the lover of that ‘infamous courtesan’, Grace Dalrymple Elliott. And Grace had also, for just a few weeks in 1781, been the mistress of Cholmondeley’s boon friend, the Prince of Wales, and had subsequently given birth to the prince’s daughter. That girl, Georgiana Seymour (no, we don’t know why she had the surname Seymour either!) was brought up by the Cholmondeleys, treated as their own daughter. Georgiana, 26-years-of-age, couldn’t attend the court, however. The queen had agreed with her son that she should not be presented until she was married, lest the king realise exactly who she was. (Georgiana married in September 1808, and she was present at King George’s 1809 birthday court, as you can discover in our first book, An Infamous Mistress.)

The newspapers described the Countess of Cholmondeley’s dress as follows:

A yellow satin petticoat, covered with a rich Brussels point lace, with a rich border; the train of yellow satin; the sleeves ornamented with rich lace.

La Belle Assemblée magazine went into more detail.

Explanation of Lady Cholmondeley’s Court-Dress: A bright primrose-coloured sarsnet petticoat trimmed full round the bottom with point lace, and a rich drapery of the same, most tastefully festooned with diamond chains, and ostrich feathers in the form of the Prince’s plume reversed. Body and train of primrose sarsnet; the latter trimmed with lace, and the former ornamented with the most splendid diamond wreath to represent the oak leaf and fruit, placed obliquely across the front of the bust; the sleeves finished to match, and the bottom of the waist confined with a diamond cestus. Head-dress court lappets of point; a diamond bandeau and rich coronet, with four ostrich feathers of unequal lengths, most tastefully disposed. Splendid earrings of the oval form; necklace and bracelets also of brilliants. Gloves of French kid, considerably above the elbow. Shoes of white satin with silver trimming.

And, here is the dress:

Georgiana Charlotte (née Bertie), Countess (later Marchioness) of Cholmondeley's Court Dress as worn on his Majesty's Birthday, June 1808. La Belle Assemblée.
Georgiana Charlotte (née Bertie), Countess (later Marchioness) of Cholmondeley’s Court Dress as worn on his Majesty’s Birthday, June 1808. La Belle Assemblée. © National Portrait Gallery, London

 

Sources not mentioned above:

Morning Post, 6 June 1808

Cricket played by the Gentleman's Club, Whiteconduit House by Robert Dighton, c.1784.

Cricket, Quoits and Fives: Sporting Prints of the 18th Century

In an earlier blog, we looked at the first three in a series of six prints by Robert Dighton, held in the Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection, which illustrate a selection of the sports played during the latter half of the eighteenth-century, some now better known than others. Today, we turn our attention to the remaining prints, depicting fives, quoits and cricket.

Fives, a racquet sport, was played at the Tennis Court, Leicester Fields and elsewhere (there are many different variations of the game). It is believed that the name signifies that it was played with five competitors on either side.

The custom of playing fives in churchyards continued in many a country district until quite recent years, notably in Somersetshire and Staffordshire. Ball-playing in such a place no doubt prevailed because the church tower often afforded so suitable a wall for fives. It was usually practised on the north side, because there were generally no graves on that side, and the sport created less scandal. A painted line for the game still remains on some of our church towers, but a string-course of suitable elevation more usually sufficed. Fives used to be played at Eton between the buttresses on the north wall of the college chapel, and the “pepper box” peculiar to Eton fives courts had its origin in a natural angle in one of these buttresses.

Fives played at The Tennis Court, Leicester Fields by Robert Dighton, c.1784.
Fives played at The Tennis Court, Leicester Fields by Robert Dighton, c.1784. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

The players are represented as using tennis rackets and playing against only one wall of the tennis court, on which is chalked out a certain area within which the balls had to be driven. Mr Marshall has thus clearly defined the sequence of the game:–“First came fives, played with the hand against any available wall. Then came bat-fives, in which a wooden instrument, roughly imitated from the tennis racket, was employed. That was a good game; and it is still played in many places, and notably at some of our great schools, Rugby, Westminster, Cheltenham, and others. Not content with the wooden bat, players acquainted with the tennis racket seem to have adopted that instrument about 1749, or a little earlier . . . so it continued to be played until 1788, the date of the print mentioned above, which the players still called the game fives.”

With the introduction of the racket, the change in the name gradually followed. It used to be popular in the prisons of the Fleet and King’s Bench, and afterwards in the gardens of some of the great London taverns. A special form of the real game became localised at Harrow about 1822. With its later history we are not here concerned, nor with the various developments of the present game of fives, which is essentially a pastime for boys.

The next print depicts a group of men contesting a game of quoits at The Horn on Kennington Common. The game was possibly first played with horseshoes, but by the eighteenth-century a metal ring was used, which was thrown to land over on near a spike set into the ground.

The game of quoits, or coits, as an amusement, is superior to any of the foregoing pastimes; the exertion required is more moderate, because this exercise does not depend so much upon superior strength as upon superior skill. The quoit seems evidently to have derived its origin from the ancient discus, and with us in the present day it is a circular plate of iron perforated in the middle, not always of one size, but larger or smaller to suit the strength or conveniency of the several candidates. It is further to be observed, that quoits are not only made of different magnitudes to suit the poise of the players, but sometimes the marks are placed at extravagant distances, so as to require great strength to throw the quoit home; this, however, is contrary to the general rule, and depends upon the caprice of the parties engaged in the contest.

Coits played at The Horn, Kennington Common by Robert Dighton, c.1784.
Coits played at The Horn, Kennington Common by Robert Dighton, c.1784. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

Because the quoits were made of iron, there are not infrequent reports in the newspapers of injuries incurred to the incautious who, for whatever reason, wandered into the field of play.

And while, like all sports, various wagers were placed on the outcome of the game, on one occasion in Chester things went a little too far.

A game of quoits was played last week by two persons, for no less a stake than the leg of the one against the arm of the other – but there was nothing very sanguinary in the case, as they were wooden ones. The contest ended in the loss of the leg.

(Chester Chronicle, 26th May 1797)

And so we come to the sixth and last print which shows a cricket match. In the eighteenth-century, cricket was the country’s most popular sport, not least because of the wagers placed upon the games. Even royalty were fans, with Frederick, Prince of Wales (the eldest son of George II) a keen player and patron. The following is the first reference to a trophy (other than cash) being contested in a game of cricket.

On Tuesday last a silver cup, given by his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, was play’d for at cricket on Moulsey Hurst near Hampton Court, by eleven men on a side; eleven were pitch’d on one side by Mr Stede of Kent, and the other eleven were pick’d out of the twenty-two that play;d at the same place about three weeks ago (and were call’d the Prince’s Men) which latter won, tho’ not with so much east as was expected, the odds being against Mr Stede’s men at the beginning.

(Derby Mercury, 23rd August 1733)

In 1745, the young women of two Surrey villages picked up their bats and faced each other in a game of cricket.

The greatest Cricket Match that ever was played in the south part of England, was on Friday the 26th of last month, on Golden Common near Guildford in Surrey, between eleven maids of Bramley, and eleven maids of Hambleton, all dressed in white, the Bramley Maids had blue ribbons, and the Hambleton Maids red ribbons on their heads, the Bramley Girls got 119 notches, and the Hambleton Girls 127; there was of both sexes the greatest number that ever was seen on such an occasion, the girls bowled, batted, ran, and catched, as well as any man could do in that game.

(Derby Mercury, 9th August 1745)

Cricket played by the Gentleman's Club, Whiteconduit House by Robert Dighton, c.1784.
Cricket played by the Gentleman’s Club, Whiteconduit House by Robert Dighton, c.1784. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

While the Gentleman’s Club at White Conduit House might have witnessed scenes similar to the one above, earlier matches played there were not quite so sporting or peaceful.

Thursday last, a cricket match was played behind White-Conduit House, between 11 Master Butchers of Newgate Market, and 11 of Clare Market, for 50l. When the Clare Market Butchers found that the Newgate ones had so few to get the last innings, they began to wrangle, when both parties came to blows, and the Newgate Men came off victorious.

(Derby Mercury 21st August 1772)

Six sporting prints by Robert Dighton, c.1784.
Six sporting prints by Robert Dighton, c.1784. The London Illustrated News, 1931.

Sources not mentioned above:

Sports and Pastimes of the People of England by Joseph Strutt [2nd ed., 1903]

Illustrated London News, 22nd August 1931

 

Give us our Daily Bread

Bread, a staple of part of the diet today as much as it was in the Georgian era. Hardly something controversial or so you would think.

Kitchen Interior with Still Life by Samuel Smith; Bury Art Museum
Kitchen Interior with Still Life by Samuel Smith; Bury Art Museum

In 1757 the weight of a penny loaf was set to reflect the local cost of wheat. Parliament tried to get people to eat lower quality bread by creating the ‘Household Bread’ Act, which stated that half of all bread sold must contain a high proportion of coarse grain – this proved extremely unpopular. Bakers, on the other hand, began to adulterate the basic bread mixture with the addition of less wholesome ingredients such as alum, which they used to make bread appear whiter.

In order to prevent such bad practice it was decided that bakers convicted of adulterating their bread, or of having in their possession any mixture or ingredients with an intention to adulterate the purity of meal, flour or bread, should forfeit a sum not exceeding ten shilling, nor less than two shillings and by the same statute, that the magistrate before whom any such conviction should be made, could cause the offender’s name and place of abode to be published in or near the county, city or place where the offence was committed.

Last Wednesday Thomas Smithers, baker near the butcher row in East Smithfield, was convicted before John Fielding Esq; in the penalty of five shillings for having in his possession a quantity of undissolved alum and a quantity of dissolved alum, with an intention to mix and adulterate the purity of the product. The penalty of 5 shilling was repaid to Mr Fielding, for the use of Magdalen House.

Substitutes for bread by James Gillray. courtesy of Yale Centre for British Art
Substitutes for bread by James Gillray. courtesy of Yale Centre for British Art

There was an interesting article on this subject, in the Hampshire Chronicle dated 27th July 1795 regarding the Prince of Wales who, as we know, was a lover of food; was he trying to improve his diet or simply trying to cut down on the spending?

The Prince of Wales has ordered brown bread to be introduced at his own table at Brighton and forbidden the use of any other amongst his household. At Brighton camp, the officers have been given orders that they had resolved on the use of brown bread only, at their tables, under forfeiture of one month’s pay from each who shall break this resolution. The allowance of bread to each man at the above camp has been reduced from a pound and a half to one pound per day. The deficiency of bread has been made up for with meat and vegetables.

Bread was a continual source of angst for the government of the day. Towards the end of the century, there were successive bad wheat harvests resulting in the price of wheat doubling and with it pushing up the price of bread. This ultimately caused food riots up and down the country. The country turned against King George III attacking his carriage when he went to open Parliament, so again it was debated to work out what grain could be used as an alternative product.

Breakfast Still Life; Pieter Claesz; Roebuck Collection
Breakfast Still Life; Pieter Claesz; Roebuck Collection

The debate in the House of Commons went something like this:

The speaker of the House of Commons, Henry Addington, proposed that where families made use of vegetables in their diet the consumption of bread should be restrained to a quartern loaf (i.e. one weighing four pounds) a head per week. The harvest was looking better for this year so it was anticipated that the scarcity of bread would diminish.

However, he felt that bread made from full grain, bran as well as flour would be more nutritious. His wish was to remove the prejudice against brown bread. There was, of course, an objection to this proposal, that being that mixed bread was likely to be subject to adulteration than white bread. His opinion was that this notion was incorrect and that was easier to detect ingredients in brown rather than in white.

Lord Hawkesbury agreed to a certain extent but felt that such advantage might be over-rated, because swine and other creatures, whose flesh constituted part of human food, were fed by the very part of the meal, which was separated from the white flour, and thus possibly, the very article of bread itself might become scarcer if the practice of making white bread was totally discontinued; for a certain class of persons would be compelled to consume more bread than they do now if they had less animal food.  In a word, he thought there was sufficient to make it a matter of recommendation, but not of compulsion, to make bread of the whole meal.

Still life with Bread by Ceruti 1750
Still life with Bread by Ceruti 1750

After much debate, the Speaker strongly recommended Lord Sheffield was fully persuaded of the necessity of making a compulsory law to enforce the use of only one kind of bread. Mr Wilberforce agreed and gave notice that he would bring in a Bill. The report was agreed to and ordered to be printed.

So, in 1800, the ‘Making of Bread’ Act, also known as the ‘Brown Bread Act’ or the ‘Poison Act’ came into effect which prohibited millers from producing flour other than wholemeal. For many people, bread formed almost half of their diet and this Act proved so unpopular and difficult to enforce that on November 6th, 1801 it was repealed.

Featured Image

Still Life with Bread and Wine, Henri Horace Roland de la Porte (c.1724–1793), York Museums Trust

View of Liverpool Harbour by Robert Salmon, 1806. The Anathaeum.

The Prince of Wales’ visit to Liverpool in September 1806

During the autumn of 1806, the Prince of Wales (later George IV) and his brother William, Duke of Clarence (later William IV), undertook a tour of several of the counties of England. We are going to look at just one of their destinations today, their visit to the city of Liverpool and their stay at Knowsley, where they arrived on 16th September.

Knowsley Hall by an unknown artist; Astley Hall Museum and Art Galler
Knowsley Hall by an unknown artist; Astley Hall Museum and Art Gallery

The royal brothers were travelling with a large retinue, including Colonel Leigh and Major Benjamin Bloomfield, one of the prince’s Gentlemen in Waiting. From Prescot onwards, they were escorted by a detachment of the Liverpool Light Horse Volunteers to Knowsley Hall, the Merseyside estate of Edward Smith-Stanley, 12th Earl of Derby and his wife, Elizabeth. (The Countess of Derby was the actress Elizabeth Farren who had been the earl’s long-term mistress during his first – somewhat disastrous – marriage to Lady Elizabeth Hamilton.) The prince, duke and their retinue spent a week at Knowsley, enjoying the hospitality of the earl and countess.

A peep at Christies' ;—or—Tally-ho, & his Nimeney-pimmeney taking the Morning Lounge. Miss Elizabeth Farren and Lord Derby walk together inspecting pictures. She, very thin and tall, looks over his head through a glass at a picture in the second row of Zenocrates & Phryne.
A peep at Christies’;—or—Tally-ho, & his Nimeney-pimmeney taking the Morning Lounge. Satire by Gillray depicting Elizabeth Farren and the Earl of Derby.

The prince was in a low mood. He had lost two of his close friends within the space of a week with the deaths of Edward Thurlow, 1st Baron Thurlow and Charles James Fox; George had been told about the death of the latter as he left his previous host, George Granville Leveson-Gower, Marquess of Stafford (later 1st Duke of Sutherland) at Trentham Hall in Staffordshire, and it fell to him to tell the Earl and Countess of Derby the sad news as he arrived at Knowsley. It was, therefore, a gloomy party who entered the gates of Knowsley. (The Countess of Derby, then Miss Farren of the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane, had enjoyed a short-lived affair with Fox who reputedly said dismissively of Elizabeth that she had ‘no bum nor breasts!’)

The party spent the next day quietly and privately: Henry Clay was the mayor, and he and the Corporation of Liverpool turned up at the mansion to present an address to the prince and confer the freedom of the borough on him, presented in a handsome gold box.

The Prince of Wales, later George IV (1762-1830) by John Hoppner, 1807; Walker Art Gallery
The Prince of Wales (1762-1830) by John Hoppner, 1807; Walker Art Gallery. Liverpool

Despite the prince’s private grief, the show had to go on. On Thursday 18th September, the royal entourage set out from Knowsley in the Earl of Derby’s coach and six, with twenty carriages following on behind. The vast crowds of people lining the route had hoped to see the prince, but to their disappointment, he was in a close carriage, virtually hidden from sight. Prince William Frederick, Duke of Gloucester (George III’s nephew and son-in-law) greeted the party on their entrance into the city, along with various militia.

Visit of the Prince of Wales to Liverpool, 18 September, 1806 by Robert Salmon
Visit of the Prince of Wales to Liverpool, 18 September 1806 by Robert Salmon. The Athenaeum.

The prince was taken to inspect the docks and the Institution for the Relief of the Blind where he asked to become their patron and immediately donated one hundred guineas. After a cold luncheon at the mayor’s house, more visits and inspections followed throughout the afternoon. In the evening, the mayor hosted a grand dinner at Lillyman’s Hotel and the town was lit up afterwards with a magnificent illumination. The prince was delighted. On his return to Knowsley, he commented to the Earl of Derby that it had been ‘the proudest day of his life’.

Liverpool Town Hall Illuminated by Robert W Salmon, 1806; Walker Art Gallery
Liverpool Town Hall Illuminated by Robert W Salmon, 1806; Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool

To the delight of the citizens, on the following day, the prince paraded through Liverpool in an open carriage, drawn by six horses and with three postilions, to cheers and huzzahs. After calling on the mayor to thank him and the Corporation, the prince proceeded to the recently established Botanic Garden in the Mount Pleasant area of Liverpool (now incorporated within the Wavertree Botanic Gardens).

The visit was a great success but had come at a huge price. It was estimated that the Corporation of Liverpool had spent some 10,000l on the entertainments. Major Bloomfield wrote a letter of thanks to the mayor at the direction of the prince, from Knowsley where the Prince of Wales and Duke of Clarence remained, enjoying the hospitality of their hosts and friends, the Earl and Countess of Derby.

Knowsley, September 20th 1806

Sir,

I am commanded by the Prince of Wales to express to you and the corporation of Liverpool, the strong sense his Royal Highness entertains of the very splendid and magnificent reception he has met with in your opulent and populous town. I have to lament the inadequacy of my powers to convey to you in the forcible language it requires, the feelings of his Royal Highness upon this occasion. The heartfelt satisfaction which seemed to pervade all ranks of people, could not fail to excite in his Royal Highness’s breast, the most sensible emotions of affection and regard, the impression of which, will ever remain indelible. His Royal Highness’s repeated exclamation, that “This is the proudest day of my life,” will, I trust, be sufficiently conclusive to you of the grateful sensations of his Royal Highness.

I am further commanded to request, that you will have the goodness to undertake the trouble of offering the subsequent bounties of his Royal Highness, to the following charities of Liverpool, viz.

One hundred guineas to the Infirmary

One hundred guineas to the Institution for the Blind

Fifty guineas to the Welch Charity

Fifty guineas to the poor debtors.

The Prince of Wales begs that you will personally accept the consideration of his high esteem and regard; and,

I have the honor to remain, &c.

B. BLOOMFIELD

H. Clay, Esq. &c, Liverpool.

The royal brothers, meanwhile, continued their tour into Cheshire and onwards through south Yorkshire and then on to Chatsworth in Derbyshire.

Sources:

The History of Liverpool: from the earliest authenticated period down to the present times, 1810

Chester Courant, 23rd September 1806

Hampshire Chronicle, 29th September 1806

Leeds Intelligencer, 29th September 1806

Manchester Mercury, 30th September 1806

Featured image:

View of Liverpool Harbour by Robert Salmon, 1806. The Athenaeum.

Martha Gunn (1726-1815), Brighton 'dipper'

Martha Gunn – Brighton Celebrity

We’re not quite sure that Martha’s claim to fame would work in today’s celebrity culture, for Martha, who was born Martha Killick daughter of Friend and Anne Killick in 1726 (baptized 19 September 1731), was a ‘dipper‘. Much has been written about her already, but we thought we would add a few extra bits.

'A Calm' by James Gillray (1810).
‘A Calm’ by James Gillray (1810). Courtesy of Princeton University Library

What was a ‘dipper’? Well, in the 1700 and early 1800s doctors would recommend that people bath in seawater to restore their health. Needless to say, this concept was terrifying for many, so in places such as Brighton people were employed as ‘dippers‘.

Huts on wheels, like the one below were used to allow the bather to protect their modesty, the bather would climb into the hut, change into their swimming attire, the machine was then pulled by dippers into the sea. Dippers were also expected to ensure that people were not swept away by the current, arguably like a modern day lifeguard, so they would need to be very strong.

Bathing machine at Weymouth
Weymouth

This occupation in itself was never going to give Martha celebrity status, but her royal connection to the Prince of Wales, later George IV, did. She was a favourite of his and apparently enjoyed special privileges including free access to the kitchen at the Royal Pavilion.

Martha Gunn, Bather at Brighton, 1791 Courtesy of Yale Center for British Art
Martha Gunn, Bather at Brighton, 1791 Courtesy of Yale Center for British Art

The portrait of her below is reputed to show Martha holding the Prince of Wales as a small child, however, this is not feasible as the Prince did not visit Brighton until September 7th, 1783, he was 21. So despite the annotation at the top of the painting this must have been added at a later stage.

Todd’s print catalogue of 1799 simply described the painting as being with an unnamed child.

There was also another copy of the piece produced by William Nutter which is now held by The Met, dated 1797. It does not state that the child was the Prince of Wales, but that the original was in his possession and this one was dedicated to the Prince of Wales.

V0017100 Martha Gunn, a Brighton bather holding a small child that she has just saved from drowning. Coloured engraving by W. Nutter, 1797, after J. Russell. 1797 By: John Russell after: William NutterPublished: 1 June 1797

It also appeared in the following catalogue which confirmed the artist to be John Russell – ‘A catalogue of all the capital and valuable finished and unfinished original works of the distinguished artist, John Russell, Esq. R.A where it was to be sold along with other paintings by Mr Christie on February 14th, 1807.

Martha Gunn and the Prince of Wales by John Russell
Martha Gunn and the Prince of Wales by John Russell; Brighton and Hove Museums and Art Galleries

The Prince of Wales, afterwards George IV born 1762 and Mrs Gunn

Martha was a large and strong woman and was well respected by the town and she even featured in the caricature below.

French Invasion or Brighton in a Bustle. Martha Gunn is depicted just left of centre, throttling a Frenchman.
French Invasion or Brighton in a Bustle, Prints, Drawings and Watercolors from the Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection, Brown University Library. Martha Gunn is depicted just left of centre, throttling a Frenchman.

She died in May 1815 and was buried in the local churchyard.

On Monday last, died, in the 89th year of her age, at Brighton, that well-known and esteemed character, as a bather, Martha Gunn, of that town. Her remains were followed to the grave by a large train of mourners and others.

Hampshire Chronicle, 15 May 1815

Martha Gunn (1726-1815), Brighton 'dipper'
Martha Gunn (1726-1815); Brighton and Hove Museums and Art Galleries

Long after her death, a plaque was added to the house where she and her family lived.

Plaque on the Brighton house where Martha Gunn lived. It says: Martha Gunn 1727-1815, the original bathing woman lived here.

 

The death of Grace Dalrymple Elliott, 15th May 1823

The 15th of May marks the anniversary of the death of Grace Dalrymple Elliott, eighteenth-century courtesan and mother of the Prince of Wales’ reputed daughter.

Grace Dalrymple Elliott's daughter Georgiana as an infant, portrait by Joshua Reynolds. The portrait is now held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Grace’s daughter Georgiana as an infant. The portrait is now held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Grace died in Ville d’Avray, Paris, in 1823, having lived a long and tumultuous life filled with adventure and experiencing both the highs and the lows of the society of her age. Although she is best remembered as a demi-rep, there is so much more to her than that: she was not merely the mistress of titled men, but a strong woman in her own right, one who lived on her own terms. Sadly though, at the end of her life, Grace had little left; her one remaining close family relative was her young granddaughter who she adored, and Grace’s dying regret was that she had nothing but her best wishes to leave her. She was buried in the Père Lachaise Cemetery on the outskirts of Paris.

Looking down the hill at tombstones at the Cimetière du Père Lachaise in Paris, France. Photo by Craig Patik, 2000 via Wikimedia. CC BY 4.0
Looking down the hill at tombstones at the Cimetière du Père Lachaise in Paris, France.
Photo by Craig Patik, 2000 via Wikimedia. CC BY 4.0

Grace left a will, one which caused a little trouble to the 1st Marquess and Marchioness of Cholmondeley, the guardians of her granddaughter. To the Cholmondeleys fell the trouble of sorting out her affairs as they related to England and to her granddaughter. An adopted daughter, formerly known as Miss Staunton, laid claim to Grace’s French assets.

The marquess hired an English attorney, Mr Allen, to sort the matter out. In his accounts he lists a payment for a woman he described as Grace’s sister, to cover the cost of a carriage she took to Sèvres to testify to Grace’s handwriting. A sister? Grace only had one known sister, Jacintha, who had died some years earlier, although a shadowy third sister is mentioned in some sources. In our biography, An Infamous Mistress, we suggest who this lady could be, the one lady left in Grace’s latter years who had both an interest in Grace’s will and a genuine affection for her.

The path to Sèvres. View of Paris c.1855-1865 by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot via Wikimedia. CC BY 4.0.
The path to Sèvres. View of Paris c.1855-1865 by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot via Wikimedia. CC BY 4.0.

Our biography of Grace, An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott, the product of many years of research into her life, is now available and published by Pen and Sword Books. It is the most definitive account to date of Grace’s life and also sheds new light on her equally fascinating wider family and ancestors, giving us a better understanding of the real woman behind her notorious persona.

An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Joanne Major and Sarah Murden. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Infamous-Mistress-Celebrated-Dalrymple-Elliott/dp/1473844835

 

Header image: Ville d’Avray, the Pond and the Cabassud House by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, c.1840. WikiArt.

Meissonier, Jean Louis Ernest; An Artist Showing his Work; The Wallace Collection

A closer look at Thomas Gainsborough’s full-length portrait of Grace Dalrymple Elliott

An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Joanne Major and Sarah Murden. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Infamous-Mistress-Celebrated-Dalrymple-Elliott/dp/1473844835

In our biography of the eighteenth-century courtesan Grace Dalrymple Elliott, we tell her story more completely than ever before whilst also shedding light on her siblings and maternal family who were central to her experiences. Containing many rarely seen images relating to Grace and her family and a wealth of new information, An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott is available as a hardback or e-book from Pen and Sword Books and all good bookshops, worldwide.

Today we are going to have a closer look at a fabulous portrait of Grace, who had her likeness painted twice by Thomas Gainsborough. The first was a full-length, probably commissioned by her lover the Earl of Cholmondeley in 1777 and which hung in his London mansion at Piccadilly. When the portrait was exhibited at the Royal Academy in Pall Mall during 1778 the General Evening Post newspaper called it a ‘striking and beautiful likeness’ of Grace, quoting some lines from The Rape of the Lock by Alexander Pope.

If to her share some female errors fall,

Look on her face, and you’ll forget them all.

Sadly for Grace, the picture proved to have a longer life in the earl’s household than she did; when he refused to marry the divorced Mrs Elliott she upped sticks for France and the Anglophile Duke of Orléans. Reputedly, the portrait was viewed, a few years later, by Cholmondeley’s boon companion, George, Prince of Wales, and he admired both the painting and its subject so much that Cholmondeley was despatched across the Channel to fetch Grace back home from the arms of her French duke and to deliver her into those of a British prince. The portrait is now held in New York, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Mrs Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Thomas Gainsborough (Metropolitan Museum of Art).
Mrs Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Thomas Gainsborough (Metropolitan Museum of Art).

Over the years the portrait’s condition meant that certain details had been lost, but these can be seen on an engraving made of it in 1779 by John Dean (or Deane, c.1754-1798, draughtsman and engraver (mezzotint)). On his engraving can be seen a flagstone floor and a burst of light coming over the trees in the background.

During treatment of Gainsborough’s portrait of Grace, dark paint was visible under the sky suggesting that the picture may originally have been intended to be much narrower, possibly without the landscape in the background.

The left hand of the 1779 engraving and Gainsborough's portrait, side-by-side.
The left hand of the 1779 engraving and Gainsborough’s portrait, side-by-side.

An additional revelation also came about during the Met’s treatment of the portrait – the presence of a small dog which was once in the lower right-hand corner was also revealed.[i]

Bottom right hand corner of the Gainsborough portrait - can you see an impression of a dog?
Bottom right-hand corner of the Gainsborough portrait – can you see an impression of a dog?

And here is the 1779 John Dean engraving of ‘Mrs Elliot’ courtesy of the Yale Centre for British Art.

John Dean, 1754–1798, British, Mrs. Elliot, 1779, Mezzotint, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund
John Dean, 1754–1798, British, Mrs. Elliot, 1779, Mezzotint, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund

Notes:

[i] British Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1575-1875, by Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), Katharine Baetjer, 2009.

Divorced wife, infamous mistress, prisoner during the French Revolution and the reputed mother of the Prince of Wales’ child, notorious courtesan Grace Dalrymple Elliott lived an amazing life in eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century London and Paris. Strikingly tall and beautiful, later lampooned as ‘Dally the Tall’ in newspaper gossip columns, she left her Scottish roots and convent education behind, to re-invent herself in a ‘marriage a-la-mode’, but before she was even legally an adult she was cast off and forced to survive on just her beauty and wits. The authors of this engaging and, at times, scandalous book intersperse the story of Grace’s tumultuous life with anecdotes of her fascinating family, from those who knew Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, and who helped to abolish slavery, to those who were, like Grace, mistresses of great men. Whilst this book is the most definitive biography of Grace Dalrymple Elliott ever written, it is much more than that; it is Grace’s family history which traces her ancestors from their origin in the Scottish borders, to their move south to London. It follows them to France, America, India, Africa and elsewhere, offering a broad insight into the social history of the Georgian era, comprising the ups and downs, the highs and lows of life at that time. This is the remarkable and detailed story of Grace set, for the first time, in the context of her wider family and told more completely than ever before.

A View of Paris from the Pont Neuf by Nicolas-Jean-Baptiste Raguenet, 1763, Getty Museum (image via Wikimedia Commons)

Grace Dalrymple Elliott – New book due out January 2016

The 15th of May marks the anniversary of the death of Grace Dalrymple Elliott, Georgian Era courtesan and reputed mother of the Prince of Wales’ daughter, Georgiana Augusta Frederica.

Georgiana Augusta Frederica Elliott (1782–1813), Later Lady Charles Bentinck courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Georgiana Augusta Frederica Elliott (1782–1813), Later Lady Charles Bentinck courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Grace died in Ville d’Avray, Paris, in 1823, having lived a long and tumultuous life filled with adventure and experiencing both the highs and the lows of the society of her age. Although she is best remembered as a demi-rep, there is so much more to her than that: she was not merely a fashion icon and the mistress of titled men, but a strong woman in her own right, one who lived upon her own terms. Sadly though, at the end of her life, Grace had little left; her one remaining close family relative was her young grand-daughter who she adored, and Grace’s dying regret was that she had nothing but her best wishes to leave her.

As long-term readers of our blog may know, we have written a biography of Grace, An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott, the product of many years of research into her life, which will be published by Pen and Sword. It contains much information that is new to Grace’s story, and some rarely seen illustrations and pictures too; our book is also a broad insight into the social history of the Georgian era, interspersed with the fascinating lives her maternal and paternal family led across the globe. It is both the story of Grace’s life and her family history.

Mrs Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Thomas Gainsborough (Metropolitan Museum of Art).
Mrs Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Thomas Gainsborough (Metropolitan Museum of Art).

An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott will be published in January 2016, and is available for pre-order from this summer.

If you would like to be kept informed in the meantime, please do consider subscribing to our blog where, alongside our remit of ‘blogging about anything and everything to do with the Georgian Era’, we will also now post regular updates on the progress of our book.

If you like nonfiction books about strong and remarkable women from history, why not take a look?

An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott

Mrs Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Thomas Gainsborough (Metropolitan Museum of Art).
Mrs Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Thomas Gainsborough (Metropolitan Museum of Art).

This is a little bit different for us today as we have some wonderful news that we wanted to share.  We are delighted to let you know that we have signed a contract with Pen and Sword and in January 2016  they will be publishing our book:

An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the Celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliott.  

Although we now have a deadline we’re working towards rest assured we still intend to keep up our blog articles about the Georgian era in the meantime. 

We have so much new information about Grace and her family to share in our book and we will keep you updated with our progress.  She’s a truly fascinating woman and we can promise you that it will be a very different biography of her than anything that has gone before.  For those who have never heard of Grace we thought it might be of interest to give you a little background about her. 

Grace Dalrymple Elliott’s name was well known in her lifetime; an ‘infamous mistress’ indeed, she became a fixture in the gossip columns, lampooned as ‘Dally the Tall’ due to her height.  She was also beautiful and, after a scandalous divorce from the portly little doctor she had married when barely out of childhood, she became the amour of titled and influential men, amongst them Prinny, the Prince of Wales and the future King George IV (reputed father of her child) and the unfortunate Phillipe, Duc d’Orléans who lost his head during the French Revolution.  

George IV when Prince of Wales by Richard Cosway, watercolour on ivory, circa 1780-1782
George IV when Prince of Wales by Richard Cosway, watercolour on ivory, circa 1780-1782; National Portrait Gallery

Grace penned a journal, outlining her own experiences as a prisoner during the French Revolution, living in the shadow of the dreaded guillotine and this, whilst containing many inaccuracies, is one of the few surviving first-hand accounts left of this time by a woman.  After this, and once the years had started to catch up with Grace, her glamorous heyday had passed and she had to survive as best she could, reliant on her wits, family and the charity of friends including  her close friend, who also suffered  the scandal of divorce, Lady Worsley.  But survive she did because one of Grace’s most admirable traits was her strength; at a time when women were expected to be meek and subservient she broke the rules, lived on her own terms and did so with an admirable degree of aplomb. 

If you want to be kept up to date with news on the progress of our book then please do subscribe to our blog.